We have a very cushy life, even though we live on a boat.
We have apartment-sized furniture and appliances, Iliana has her own bedroom, Rob and I share a queen-sized bed, we have our own shower, and, once they are repaired, we will even have our own laundry facilities. Living on Loco Lobo is a lot like living in a small mobile home.
Yet our lifestyle is not without adventure.
We lose electricity whenever the tide is too high, which usually happens at least once a year during a storm surge. Last winter we had a deep freeze, which caused us to lose water for many days after the pipes froze. We take these challenges in stride, because they are just a part of living on a boat.
However, this Thanksgiving, we had an adventure that was equal parts horrifying, baffling, and, in the end, kind of funny.
Meet Popcorn, the (Somewhat Lazy) Cat-of-Prey
This story begins with our kitty cat, Popcorn. We rescued Popcorn when she was about 4 weeks old, in the Amish country outside of Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Her mother had been run over, and she was sitting, lost, in the middle of the road. We posted ads, but nobody claimed her.
After a few years of being an indoor kitty in Harrison, Michigan, Popcorn joined our family on our move to Texas. A year later, she was living on a sailboat, and we started allowing her to go outside.
At first, Popcorn enjoyed hunting. Everyone on the pier loved her, because she killed a large number of wharf rats. Occasionally, she would leave a rat by the door, for her family. Rob tried to humor her, and pretended to eat the rats, but that was not enough.
In order to better feed her family, Popcorn decided a more aggressive approach was necessary. On Easter morning, while Iliana was hunting for hidden eggs, Popcorn triumphantly jumped through the open hatch, delivering a dead rabbit and depositing in in the middle of the floor. Luckily, Iliana was just starting to get into science, and excitedly proclaimed, “Popcorn has captured her prey!”
As Popcorn got older, we moved onto Loco Lobo, on the marina’s very laid-back island pier. Everyone adored her and started leaving out snacks for her. A family on a catamaran nicknamed her “Poppy,” and she became somewhat of a celebrity. Our neighbors keep a box with a blanket in it out on their aft deck, so she can come over for a nap and a snack whenever it suits her fancy.
Loco Lobo came with a cat hole cut in the companionway door, so Popcorn frequently enjoys going outside. Instead of hunting down rats and bunnies, however, she likes to lie down on the main pier and wait for her admirers to come over the pet her.
In the winter, however, there are fewer people staying in the marina. So Popcorn has been keeping herself entertained by playing with the rodents once again. One morning, she surprised us by leaving a litter of dead baby rats on the side deck. More recently, when Rob came home for his lunch break, she had brought in a still-alive rabbit. She had lost interest in it before killing it, so Rob let it go and boarded up the kitty door.
The fall is a lovely season in Texas, where we need neither air conditioning nor heat, and we love to leave the companionway door and hatch open most of the time. Our aft deck has doors on the sides, so our dog can’t escape. But Popcorn is nimble enough to come and go as she pleases. We enjoyed a number of pleasant nights, with the boat open as we slept in the fresh, fall air.
A Nighttime Visitor?
The first time it happened, Rob noticed a horrible cut on Iliana’s pinky finger, when he woke her up in the morning. There was blood all over her sheets. She had two puncture wounds on the front of her finger, and one in the back. We googled “rats” and learned that rats do not carry rabies, but they can carry other bacterial infections. Iliana had just finished an antibiotic for an ear infection (one of the few antibiotics she is not allergic to), so I continued giving it to her, until we decided what to do.
Our boat has a headliner, like a car, for the ceiling. In Ili’s room, it was torn in two places, where she had kicked it from her bed. We in in the process of replacing it. We figured that the creature who bit her, must have come in through the tear, since it was so cold outside. There was no evidence of a rat living in our boat, so we figured that it was a freak incident.
We repaired the tear and had Iliana sleep facing the other direction. We all figured that the problem was solved.
Until Iliana woke us up at night, screaming.
Right next to her eye, she had two deep bites on her face, bleeding a great deal. Horrified, we immediately cleaned it with an antiseptic wipe and gave her a band-aid. She brought her favorite stuffed animals into our bed and fell asleep quickly.
In the morning, her face was bruised and swollen. Which meant that whatever bit her was strong.
Stronger than a bat, was my immediate thought, because bats are the primary carriers of rabies in our area.
That day was Thanksgiving, and we called every urgent care clinic in our area. Nobody was open until Friday. I gave Iliana some antibiotic ointment and another dose of her antibiotic.
Black Friday, Part 1
We allowed Iliana one trip into her bedroom during the day, so she gathered up every single one of her Beanie-Boos. Then we set up rat traps and closed the door. Iliana surrounded herself with Beanie-Boos and fell asleep in the middle of our queen-sized bed. The dog and cat took their usual places at the foot of the bed, leaving Rob and me a miniscule amount of real estate.
Which is fine, because I couldn’t sleep. I woke up at night a couple times, and continued researching rats, rabbits, bats, and rabies. Which didn’t make sleeping any easier. What I did learn, is that whatever we did, we had a little bit of time to decide.
Urgent care opened at noon, and Iliana had her heart set on shopping at Black Friday. In my minimalist blogging years, I extoled the virtues of Buy Nothing Day and urged my readers to “rethink Christmas.” I encouraged them to make it about more than the mountain of gifts.
And then, in the wee hours of the night, I would make sure that Santa delivered a mountain of gifts to our house. Because….Christmas….
Back in those days, I also said that only children were not spoiled. So I was wrong about a lot of things!
Grateful that Urgent Care opened so late, and that an animal bite was not an emergency, I excitedly took my only child to Black Friday. We scoured the ads ahead of time, and just ended up overwhelmed by it all. Then I remembered that I had gift cards for Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. I saw that Kohl’s had a sale on toys, so Iliana agreed that we would look for Beanie Boos there, and if they didn’t have any, we would go to Five Below.
Together, we eagerly hit the mall!
Iliana’s first find was a sequined pillow at Macy’s. She has wanted one for a long time.
Before heading to Nordstrom’s, it was time for some Dipping Dots!
And, of course, a mirror selfie on our way out.
Here is Iliana, all gussied up with her new hair and fashion accessories!
We ended the day with a Happy Meal, and got ready for the next leg of our adventure.
Black Friday, Part 2
While Iliana and I were shopping, Rob texted me, saying that he had done some investigating and found lots of rabbit poop throughout the bilge…and a few newly deposited next to the dog food dish. His googling told him that rabbits in the wild are very aggressive and territorial. So it still looked like we were dealing with a non-rabies carrier that was unlikely to spread infection.
We made plans to set a live trap, baited with dog food, and after lunch, I took Iliana to Urgent Care.
Iliana had a lot of health problems early in life, but, before this year, she had only been to the doctor twice since we moved to Texas in 2013. One of those times was for a check-up and vaccines.
When I left my job, Iliana qualified for Medicaid. We have been navigating the bureaucracy of that, trying to figure out how to keep her current doctor (which we likely will be able to do). In the meantime, Iliana has been to Urgent Care twice, with pink eye and with an ear infection.
Doctors become very stressed when Iliana needs an antibiotic, because she is already allergic to Penicillin and Clindamyacin. She had a mild reaction to the first one, and a serious reaction to the second. For her ear infection, she was given a Penicillin derivative, which did not cause any problems. That is what I continued giving her, after the bites.
So off we were, to our third Urgent Care visit, the day after Thanksgiving. I expected it to be quick, which maybe a Tetanus shot, but not much else.
Of course I had to tell the story about how she got bitten by a feral rabbit in our home.
I told the story to the receptionist when we checked in.
And the nurse who took Ili’s vitals and triaged us. She was very concerned, and said that this sounded like a rabid animal, and we may need to go to the ER. She said she would be right back.
Twenty minutes later, we had still not graduated to seeing the doctor. The nurse returned with a map and Mapquest directions to the nearest pediatric ER, which also happened to accept Medicaid.
Iliana was very displeased. As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I reminded her that she used to love going to the hospital. She went there a lot when she was younger, and she would start smiling and laughing when we pulled into the parking lot. She loved the nurses who paid attention to her. I used to joke that she wanted to have her birthday party there. When we lived in Michigan, Iliana had three ER visits and two hospitalizations, all of which she enjoyed.
Ili wasn’t buying it. We were scheduled to visit her best friend at 5:00, and Ili remembered how long ER visits often took. It was already 3:00.
We were triaged as soon as we walked in, and they directed us to a gurney sitting against the wall (next to pirate decals!) in front of the nurses’ station. I took it as a good sign, that they didn’t expect us to stay long enough to even get a room!
Iliana was unhappy, but I did get her to put on her sunglasses for one “diva” picture…
It was 10 minutes before the (rather attractive) doctor arrived. I got to tell yet another person our bunny story, and he seemed unphased. “Well, you did the right thing,” he told me. “We would have prescribed the antibiotic she is taking and given her antibiotic ointment. You don’t have to worry about rabies with rabbits and rats in this area.”
He made sure there was no bat evidence in the boat and directed me to keep giving Iliana the antibiotic until it runs out. And he gave us the name of an infectious disease specialist to call if Ili starts having any symptoms, which he said, she likely will not.
10 minutes later, a nurse showed up with our discharge papers, and Iliana and I were on our way!
Here she is, ready to visit her bestie! She ripped off her hospital bracelet as soon as we arrived!
Meanwhile, Iliana is banned from her bedroom while we try to catch the crazy bunny. Stay tuned…